Mirjam Strasser, head of sales and acquisitions at Autentic Distribution, explores how the market is changing for factual content and discusses the new shows the German company is showcasing via C21’s Digital Screenings this week.What are the big trends in the factual sector right now, in particular the rise of ‘premium factual’?
First of all, blue-chip nature programmes are still the content that can achieve the highest licence fees. Lots of clients are eagerly looking for the next big natural history hit. Climate programmes and conservation topics are getting more and more popular. Apart from that, ancient history is working well for a broad range of clients that are looking for more programmes about Ancient Egypt, the pyramids and the Romans.
I have to say that Second World War programmes are also still working, no matter how much content there is on the market about Hitler and the Nazis. Series about conspiracy theories are required by many clients and we are looking for another series of this kind to acquire. The new space race is a hot topic; we are launching New Space – The Race is Back On at Mipcom. For AVoD and FAST channels, we find that male-oriented factual series that can be stripped are working brilliantly, for example, series about tough jobs or extreme constructions.How are things like the economy and eco-awareness impacting the market for travel programming?
Eco-awareness has had a big impact on travel programmes. There is a ‘young adventurers’ trend in travel programming but these travellers are very aware of the resources they consume and the waste they are producing. There is also a trend to travel on a low budget and that ‘less is more’ in travelling. This leads to a very authentic way of presenting or hosting a film and we are curious to see how these titles work for our buyers at Mipcom. We have two in our luggage for Cannes: Nepal – A Journey From West to East and Israel’s National Trail. The latter is a film by Autentic’s own production team to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel in May 2023.How have the streamers changed things in natural history and how can traditional broadcasters compete?
Streamers are investing heavily in natural history docs and traditional broadcasters can only compete with them if they are a confirmed production partner on projects from the beginning, taking over a big part of the budget. Coming onboard later is almost impossible as the streamers want holdbacks for TV and make complete buyouts.How can the history and science genres reach beyond their traditional demographics and tap into new audiences?
Quickly paced pop-science shows, with CGI and about topics that are of interest to younger people, work best in the younger demographics, such as our new series 42 – The Answer to Almost Everything. In the history genre, we have our latest production with Canadian producer Go Button Media being delivered at the end of this year. It’s called Deadly Science and it raised a lot of presale interest at MipTV. This six-parter tells the story of iconic inventors, scientists and explorers who paid an extreme price for their work. It features facts that were basically unknown or not known by a broad audience before, and the series comes alive by using archive, experts, CGI and historic reenactments. These elements are nowadays essential to keep the young audiences in their seats.How is demand for magazine-style factual-entertainment formats changing?
Buyers often tell me there are not enough factual entertainment formats on the market; everyone is looking for the next big thing. These magazine-style series get more and more diverse, which is a good thing, and localised series work best for many. Other buyers, on the contrary, seek global formats, so for a distributor it is difficult to satisfy everyone. We come to Mipcom with Germany’s most popular car magazine show, Grip, which we have re-versioned to fit the international market.With mergers and takeovers galore, what new opportunities do you see in the factual market right now?
Autentic has its own production unit and with new streamers like Discovery+ and Disney+ launching in more and more countries, there are new opportunities now to produce originals and more possibilities to get shows funded.How is your content catalogue changing, in terms of genres and suppliers?
In the past 12 months alone, Autentic Distribution has found 22 new suppliers, producers we did not know before and who want to work with us. I am very proud about our growing number of production companies who trust Autentic enough to bring their titles to an international audience.
Genre-wise, we have moved into the true crime genre, as this trend is still ongoing and viewers don’t seem to get tired of good true crime shows. Hence we have acquired, for example, the series Crime Time and are looking for more. And over the next few months, our wildlife catalogue will get a big boost too.
We are also very proud about our cooperation with OUP, the Organisation of Ukrainian Producers, from whom we have just launched the film Mariupol – Unlost Hope. It shows the Russian-Ukrainian war through the eyes of ordinary people who lived through the first month of the invasion in Mariupol. This is a film-evidence, film-truth of ordinary citizens who found themselves inside the war, an absolutely moving film with extremely good storytelling. Another new production, 9 Lives, shows the fate of animals in a war, featuring animals like cats, dogs, lions, horses and others. Anyone who loves animals will be absolutely moved by this film.What kind of content is Autentic now looking to invest in to better serve the global marketplace?
We are one of the biggest factual distributors in Germany and a reliable number of German producers are working with us regularly. Autentic Distribution would not be what it is today without them and we have a very strong client base who are looking for precisely this kind of content. But in the mid term, my aim is for our catalogue to become more international and more commercial, so we are looking for fast-paced series in the genres of history and science, featuring captivating stories that have not been covered before, or that reveal a new angle about something already known. Our clients have a strong appetite for these kinds of shows.Mipcom is on the horizon. Please tell us about the importance of real-life industry events?
As everyone knows, our industry is a people business and real-life industry events are invaluable. It is difficult to build up a new relationship with a buyer via the screen alone, so it is important to meet in-person to get the relationship started. We were and still are very grateful for the possibility to have Zoom calls, especially during the pandemic, but also now to save resources and to reduce our carbon footprint. But we are very much looking forward to seeing more and more people again at in-person events and we can’t wait for Mipcom.Please tell us about some recent programme sales/investments that Autentic has made.
We have done gap-financing for a number of new projects which we will release at Mipcom, for example, history series Spies That Mapped the World, which we coproduced with Canada’s Go Button. The series is about the huge missions undertaken by Soviet spies after WWII, which have a new relevance now.
Regarding our recent programme sales and just to name a few, we pre-sold Colossal Machines II to Servus TV and Welt N24 in Germany. Canal+ Poland has picked up five programmes, among them Wild Prairie Man and World’s Most Dangerous Railway Lines. Our blue-chip wildlife documentary White Winter – A Season on the Northern Alpine Rim (1×52’) from Nautilusfilm has been sold to Czech TV and Hungary’s MTVA. Our high-end crime/science series Inside the Mind of a Con Artist (6×52′) will be available in French-speaking countries via Mediawan. The series is produced by Autentic’s in-house production unit. We also sold the history two-parter Europe’s Forgotten Dictatorships (2×45’) and The American Führer (1×52’) to PBS America UK, and closed a package of more than 50 hours of factual programming with ERT Greece. A package of 26 hours was licensed to Portugal’s RTP, including history miniseries Wrecks (3×45’) and wildlife conservation series Wildlife Diaries Australia (6×45’), also an in-house Autentic production. The new streamer Bitsmedia has also secured rights to 22 hours of factual programming.
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